The Witch’s List – excerpt

Oct 23rd, 2015 | By | Category: Articles, Cosmic Egg Books, Extract
Andrew cairns

Andrew Cairns, author.

Here’s a sneak peek at a book that will be coming out from Cosmic Egg, written by Andrew Cairns. We’re so early in the process that there isn’t a cover yet, but it’s a perfect read for Halloween, so here’s something sinister to be going along with…

I walked warily up the Severe Burns corridor, and located the door where the noise seemed to be coming from. Severe Burns, I thought to myself, Rabbie would feel right at home here. I gave a little laugh, trying to reassure myself. But thinking of Rabbie, his icy stare, and the episode with the crucifix, had the opposite effect. I nervously swallowed my saliva and opened the door.

It was the ward, apparently for people who’d suffered severe burns; in the dim light I could make out ten beds, all occupied with heavily bandaged patients. They all appeared to be asleep. But then I heard the tapping beads noise and a hoarse voice called out again: “Sandy!” It came from the bed in the far corner of the room; I made my way over past the other patients – silent, but for the sounds of their laboured breathing, and the soft beeping of various monitors and equipment. The patient calling me was propped up at an angle in the bed; the sheets covered her up to the waist, but the visible upper body was completely covered in bandages. I presumed it was a woman, judging by the voice and the slight bulge of her breasts under the bandages. I sourced where the tapping noise was coming from: she clutched beads – rosary beads perhaps? – in her bandaged right hand, and was hitting them against the intravenous drip by her bed.

“Sandy! Forget her. Just forget her!” she rasped.

“What? Forget who?” She made me feel so uneasy, I could feel myself shaking. “And who are you anyway?” I tried to steady myself. I just wanted to get out of this place as soon as possible.

“It’s me! Sister Bernadette! But please, Sandy, listen! You need to listen! Forget Gabriella, forget African women, and avoid them at all costs. I know you’re attracted to them, but you’re in grave danger. Please! You have to… I’ll pray for you…” Her voice trailed off. I could hear how she toiled just to breath. She was extenuated, but she continued tapping the beads as she tried to get her breathing under control to be able to continue.

“Hey. Take it easy. Maybe I should call a nurse or something.” I didn’t want to do this, because how could I explain my presence here; but I didn’t want some nun dying on me either.

“Don’t worry about me,” she whispered, as if reading my thoughts. “My time on this earth is almost over. They got to us with fire. The whole convent. Up in flames.  All the others dead… and soon I’ll join them. A few more hours, maybe days… and then may God accept my soul.” She paused again, murmuring prayers while she clutched the beads.

When she seemed to have stopped praying, I asked, “Who’s they?”

“The witches, African devil worshippers, Gabriella and her lot,” she went on. “You have to avoid them. Try and control your lusts!” The word ‘lusts’ obviously disgusted her.

She was freaking me out. How did she know about me and Gabriella? I was about to try and question her further when one of the monitors of another patient started beeping loudly and a red light started flashing above their bed. I went over and saw that the heart-monitor showed zero heart activity – they were flat-lining. Damn, what was I going to do? Should I try some attempt at heart-massage? Surely someone on the night-staff would be along in a couple of minutes; then how would I explain what I’d been doing here?

Bernadette read my mind again. “She’s already dead. There’s nothing you can do. Most of us are terminal in here.”

“How can you be sure?” I asked, but I knew she was probably right. All the patients in this ward were covered in bandages like Bernadette; their chances of recovery must have been slim. I could hear voices and footsteps from down the corridor, from where I’d arrived. Damn! I had to leave, was there another way out of this ward?

Bernadette tapped with her beads and pointed her hand towards another door at the side of the ward her bed was on. Her powers of telepathy were uncanny! As I went out the door, she hissed a final warning, “Forget Gabriella. Don’t go looking for her and don’t try to replace her with another black woman! I’ll pray for your safety!”

I shut the door just as I heard the main door to the ward opening and what must have been the medical team bursting in. I was out in a non-descript corridor. In one direction it led off to more wards, but it could well have been a dead end; the other direction led back round past the door the medics had just come in. I headed stealthily back down this way. Thankfully they’d shut the door and I assumed they must have been busy trying to revive the patient who’d flat-lined. Or were simply verifying her death? Anyway, I didn’t hang around to find out. I walked quickly down the corridor marked Canteen, Maternity.

The canteen was empty and in darkness and I continued on. At last a sign marked Exit! I was just about to follow this, but I glanced towards the door marked Maternity and noticed something strange on the floor. Oh my God! There was blood seeping out from under the door! What the hell was going on? This was the stuff of nightmares. I went closer to the Maternity Ward door and from within came the noise of a baby crying; but not just crying, this was a blood-curling shrieking, louder and more horrifying than any scream I’d ever heard – from baby, child or adult. Nauseous with apprehension I wrenched open the door, expecting to be greeted by some gruesome scene, but when I entered suddenly everything went quiet. The blood had disappeared and all I could see were the peacefully sleeping mothers and their newly-born infants.

Was I going mad? I had to get away from this hospital! I sped off towards the Exit sign, and followed the signs down a flight of stairs to the ground level and main exit. I got out at last, and breathed in huge lungfuls of the cool night air.

I ran back the short distance to Murray Hall. The place was deathly silent; everyone had gone to bed, even the night owls like Nick. I locked myself into my room and tried to get to sleep, but my head was throbbing, and not just from the effects of the alcohol. I could hear the nun’s warnings and that terrible shriek, playing over and over in my head.

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